Okay, let's get right to the point on Miss Allen's; you've waited long enough. This is what the locals call Allen's Fried Chicken and Family Style Meals in Sweetwater, Texas, which is about 50 miles west of Abilene on I-20. This ramshackle place has been on the main drag in Sweetwater since the earth cooled, and everyone in this part of Texas knows about it.
The meals are served family style, which means that you sit at large tables with other diners whom you probably don't know (unless you're a local).
The food, which is southern home cooking, is brought out and set on the tables in large serving bowls and platters, and the patrons pass these around the table, uh, family style. (We hadn't met before the guy in the photo below, but he was very friendly, telling us that he scheduled his business trips in order to pass through Sweetwater at lunchtime to eat at Miss Allen's.)
Although the photo above doesn't show it, there were no fewer than 21 different items when all the serving dishes had been brought to the table. These included fried chicken, barbecue brisket, ribs and sausage, cole slaw, pea salad, potato salad, boiled buttered potatoes, candied sweet potatoes, green beans, pinto beans, stewed okra and tomatoes, stewed corn, stewed squash, stewed turnip greens, rolls and peach cobbler. Available drinks were iced tea or water.
This is my first plate; it would hold only seven of the 21 dishes on the table:
Sandy and I had not dined here before today, but it had all the hallmarks that would constitute nirvana for a foodie like me. It was because of the cachet of this place and a recommendation by old friend Bubba that we nudged Phannie a bit out of our way through Abilene and Sweetwater while en route to Colorado. I had to try it; no real foodie could look himself in the mirror if he hadn't.
Now, for the review. Let me precede this by reminding you that I am incredibly picky about food. I was raised among great cooks, and my expectations are bordering on unrealistic. If I owned a restaurant, I would probably go broke trying to achieve perfection. In fact, I'm sure of it.
First, the surroundings: I love old landmark dives like this, so I have nothing but raves about the history and tradition of this family style restaurant. The servers were rushed but friendly, so we really have no problems here.
Now, the food: The fried chicken was among the best I have eaten. It was perfectly seasoned, floured and fried. The barbecue, however, was a bit under par. The smoke flavor was strong, as if some kind of smoke flavoring had been added. The ribs were way overdone, and the sausage was bland and greasy. The buttered potatoes and pinto beans were fine, but most of the other vegetable dishes surprisingly and inexplicably had too much sugar added to them. Perhaps this is a local thing, but I didn't get it. I had never eaten sweet turnip greens before and found them quite off-putting. The green beans, corn and sweet potatoes were canned, therefore disappointing, but with this many dishes, I suppose they had to take some short cuts to keep the cost at ten bucks for all this food, of which patrons can eat all they wish, as long as they eat it on the premises.
Was it worth the ten bucks? Of course; it was an amazing experience to be drawn briefly into this little vignette of the Sweetwater community and worth a stop just for the chicken.
In an effort to fend off criticism about my being a one-trick pony, preoccupied only with food as I describe the places we pass through, let me add a couple of interesting facts about Sweetwater that you probably didn't know: The WASPS--the only women pilots of WWII, were trained at Sweetwater's Avenger Field. It is also the center of one of the largest wind generation areas in the U. S. with more than 1300 windmills. I was not able to determine how the town got its name; I was too busy eating lunch at Miss Allen's.
Full of chicken and some of Miss Allen's other dishes (there were so many, I took only a forkful of some), we trekked northward to Amarillo. The strong wind was at our stern this time, and Phannie handled much better.
We pulled in to Oasis RV Resort about 6:30 p.m. Now this was more like it: A big beautiful park with large concrete pads.
No, we didn't arrive after dark, as the photo above would suggest; I took the photo after we returned from dinner. Those readers who know us well are not surprised by what would be a very late arrival time for most of them. I get quite enough ribbing from our RV friends about the hours we keep, so I'm trying to head them off with this explanation. (I doubt if it will work.) Frankly, we've tried being early people, but we just don't do it very well. It's too much like having to get up early to go to work.
We have tried to forget the dustbowl park back in Abilene, but the white dust all over Phannie's lower sides and posterior means that a wash job is imminent so as to avoid further embarrassment.
We went to Coyote Bluff near downtown Amarillo for dinner, but I'll tell you about that in the next post.